Navigating the Shoals
September 3, 2018North Carolina’s coastline had been known for years, longer than I have been alive, as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Now, that does not have the same appeal as being known as the Garden State, or the Gold Coast or even the Tar Heel state, which at least gives us a fighting chance for positive self-identification. Graveyards are not everybody’s favorites. Let’s be honest. A conversation this weekend with a young man I dearly love made me think of the graveyard moniker. He has run into a rough patch at work. Same is true for the girl across the street. And the college student who sits on my porch and the 96 year old woman who sits isolated in the silence of deafness, and the woman whose prayer request at church today was for a husband with stage 4 throat cancer, and a dear former parishioner whose colon cancer is so closing in, her life is short and may be ended even as I write ….. and so it goes … on and on and on. I have long said in my ministry, that every day is blessing and Christ is joy and love and the perfect expression of God in the world, but that human suffering is our common denominator. There are shoals in our lives, various sand bars and shifting sands where we get stuck, the places where we are stopped in our tracks by illness, ill will, disappointment, rejection, self-doubt. These places are our shoals, our graveyards because they kill our spirits, our hopes, our confidence, our dreams. So how do we navigate such treacherous waters? My family will roll their eyes at me (Mom, don’t go all churchy on us) when I say this. I come to this conclusion fully knowing my own shortcomings and my own struggles with the shoals. I do not say this with any great piety or pride. I am least and lowliest, but I know as I write tonight, a Great Light stands. And just like people who built the great lighthouses along the North Carolina coast knew, only a Beacon in the night can direct a struggling sailor through the shoals to calm waters and peaceful passage home. I know that if I look for Jesus, who is the Christ, the Light and the Beacon in the darkness, I will not be stuck in the sand but just so long. Maybe when Jesus said in the Gospel of John, I am the way... I am the Light. he knew then that Oneness with God was the ballast and the compass, and the depth finder, and the Lighthouse that would lead us through rough seas and troubled waters. My heart sings tonight “When the storms of life are raging, stand by me. When the storms of life are raging, stand by me. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea, Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me.” Stand by me - In the midst of tribulation, in the midst of faults and failures, when I growing old and feeble and my life becomes a burden, stand by me. Charles Tindley from the early 19th century knew about navigating the shoals as he wrote these lyrics and tune. May God bless us in this 21st century to claim a rudder, hoist a sail and open our eyes to see the Light on the shoreline just ahead.